Welcome to earthweal’s open link weekend Number Nine! (Is that John Lennon echoing in the background?) Link a poem from your ouvre using the Mr. Linky Widget (include your location).
Visit your fellow linkers’ contributions and be sure to comment; the thread of late has been looking a little thin.
Open link weekend ends at midnight EST Sunday night to make room for the Monday’s weekly challenge.
Sherry Marr returns on March 2 with a weekly challenge titled BEATING THE DRUMS OF CHANGE.
Get in everybody! The water’s great!
What great responses to the “Clockwork Green” challenge this week! We are creatures of time, though our poetries wind and spring those tempos so variously. Nice job, guys.
Also good to hear that the earthweal wheels keep spinning. In her comment to the post, Sarah wrote, “earthweal is invading my dreams and my writing at the moment.” Not sure that is a compliment, but even as complaint it’s a vote for the work.
Climate change has thoroughly invaded my dreams and writing, too. The other night I dreamed I was trying to figure out how to write a poem about the earth’s looming hothouse—all that carbon and methane we can’t stop emitting from our overpopulated, industrialized and digitally-enrapt existence. What if runaway climate change ensues and we end up like Venus, with all that carbon trapped in the atmosphere and causing the surface to heat to 800 degrees? What would it look and feel like to the soul? Like sexual passion in the middle of a hot humid Florida summer? How do the panes shift and the vortexes whirl and the irruptive facts make themselves brutally clear? To the mind, in the heart?
Short of actually writing a poem about it (maybe I still will), the dream put the problem most clearly to me that we are forced to face off not with a temporal human event (whose clockworks have upsprung into their own chaos, as this week’s contributions have so well demonstrated) but a monstrous geological change dripping with so many unknowns that facing it squarely is more perilous than fleeing off to some earthphobic Lalaland.
As usual, there’s plenty of present evidence. After a vicious round of drought, wildfire and storm—all incensed by climate change, Australia is now experiencing “compound extremes”: one climate disaster setting up conditions to make the next one worse. Sustained high heat creates droughts creating tinder conditions leading to massive wildfires which lead to intense rains the ground is too dry to absorb which leads to flooding which kills fish from ash runoff which further damages ecosystems … et cetera. (Cue Jacob Marley here, rattling his chains at Scrooge and hollering, “you think this mug is bad, wait til you see the guy two ghosts down from me!” —roll on the snare, tap o’ the high hat) Last year the news was that climate change could whip up multiple simultaneous disasters, now we find out there’s more to every one of them. Yippee.
But the slowly growing growling Event of the Year So Far of course is coronavirus, now leaking like contagion into the greener (as in, toxic-spill green) areas of the imagination. Global stock markets are acting like the news of interrupted business just suckerpunched them, and the Trump administration is falling over themselves like Keystone Cops trying to assure Americans there’s nothing to worry about (while whispering Oh Yes There Is into every dark nook of the conspiratorial fanny). Yes, well. All this goes back to the intrusion of the human into the wild, for the sake of relieving some poor pangolin of its scales in order to ease aching joints. (if not consciences). That and the virus of the homo sapiens tourist.
Climate change-related news continues to interrupt the news cycle (January was also the hottest year on record, spring floods are going from nasty to worse). It makes everything else going on, from Democratic primaries to seem like and the continuing saga of Harry and Megan seem like comic asides. One really is, but that both like everything else in the normal frame of reference feel weirdly apart from the real news suggests that climate change has surfaced at the center of our cultural awareness.
In his book Defiant Earth, Clive Hamilton gets to the heart of this sense of irruption:
In German, Erlebnis can simply mean an event or occurrence in the course of life, the type of personal experience that was the hallmark of nineteenth-century Romanticism’s appeal to feeling. But it can also refer to an intense disruptive episode, one that makes an indelible impression, changing a life course, the kind of experience not so much integrated into a life but which relegates the old life to the past and inaugurates a new sensibility, “something unforgettable and irreplaceable, something whose meaning cannot be exhausted by conceptual determination.” (Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, 61). Such a realization is not only a powerful emotional event but also one saturated with meaning. The subject often has the inexplicable feeling that the event has some purpose that asks to be understood. It is as if some force has intervened, creating a rupture that has meaning beyond the personal, a universal truth.
What am I gonna do? Keep looking for work, get some projects done around the house, try to be a calm influence in a growing storm and start reading Love In A Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. And keep writing. Marquez once told a friend, “’In reality the duty of a writer—the revolutionary duty, if you like—is that of writing well.” I’m not sure it is possible to love or write well in the full bloom of a coronavirus pandemic, but it’s on my to-do list for the new future. How bout you?
Jacob Marley has indeed come calling, and more ghosts are to follow. (Sherry faces off with the ghoul of the Capitolocene in her upcoming challenge.) Rethinking human and nature is radical work, and much must be uprooted. Time is not on our side. When you consider that the sudden uptick in climate disasters is the product of carbon emissions from 20 years ago—this is what we get with 1 degree Celsius warming since the beginnings of the Industrial Age—just imagine what’s in store for us at 3 degrees C warming, now the low end of projections for the rest of this century.
In her 2014 book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. The Climate, Naomi Klein wrote that such alarming news about our imminent future is
… the equivalent of every alarm in your house going off simultaneously. And then every alarm on your street going off as well, one by one by one. They mean, quite simply, that climate change has become an existential crisis for the human species. The only historical precedent for a crisis of this depth and scale was the Cold War fear that we were heading toward nuclear holocaust, which would have made much of the planet uninhabitable. But that was (and remains) a threat; a slim possibility, should geopolitics spiral out of control.
You think nuclear annihilation is bad, wait to you see what else we’ve cooked up! (bada-bing.) That at was six years ago, and back then Klein said we had about a decade to act decisively enough. As wake-up calls go—like all the rest of we keep getting in the news—this one didn’t seem to change voracious global consumption habits one bit. Too many people wanting A/C and iPhones and big farty cars.
How is it that we—me, I mean—remain so fixed in my fossil fueled comfort zone? Am I deranged, asleep at the wheel, or that drunk on memememememememe?
Well, yes. It is exceedingly difficult to see that my cultured upbrining is horribly out of sync with the world as it is now revealing itself. That my what-me-worry? dailiness compounded by 8 billion other Alfred E. Neumanns is pissing of the Earth and how.
I was raised a suburban kid in the 60s, awash in Mayberry RFD and The Beatles, privileged by white male birthright and given all the permission in the world to seek my own pleasure and indulgence. From the time my lips were torn from my mother’s breast, the American Dream was the opioidal alternative I was told give suck to. 60 years later I found out that it was a manufacturer’s dream, a Capitalist roadhouse in which fossil fuel was the hootch and a sprawling suburbia of techno-comforts the prize lady slithering round the stripper pole.
And while I whiled away my privilege squandering everything in sight, beyond self-same walls I refused to look past was a world getting sick very, very fast.
Behind that silicone mask, what an ugly, ugly reality. And how difficult breaking free—like losing one’s life, place, hopes and delusions.
I look that square in the face—and task my work with it—or remain deluded with the sinking part of my humanity.
Amitav Ghosh again, in his book-length essay The Great Derangement:
… We have entered a time when the wild has become the norm: if certain literary forms are unable to negotiate these torrents, then they will have failed—and their failures will have to be counted as an aspect of the broader imaginative and cultural failure.
Business as usual says bury one’s head and have a drinkadoodledoo. If there’s any waking, someone’s got to start by lifting their head, looking about and connoitering not only the changed landscape but find a healing response to it. And short of that, at least describe the shiftiness of a today that ain’t in Kansas anymore.
Some of the work feels precipitous, between falling into the same old wah wah despair or embracing lah-lah velds of Disneyesque fancy. Honey, this ain’t no rock ‘n’ roll show: This is adult work. Despair we can fill by the bucket, but hope comes in drips and drabs. What seems evident in the work we’ve done here so far is that every challenge of changing earth demands a capacity for both, and that’s something we need each other for. Our combined imagination is the good work we can achieve, a collective of global voices tuning in to the same growing bandwidth.
‘Nuff said. If you thought climate change was bad, wait till you see what your upcoming season has in store for us!